Is Nonito "Filipino Flash" Donaire still one of the pound-for-pound best in boxing? Not if he can't beat WBA featherweight champion Simpiwe Vetyeka on Saturday night in Macao, China.
That's meant as no disrespect to Vetyeka. He earned his title by battering previously undefeated Chris John back in Dec. 2013.
But if Donaire were in his prime and still performing at the level he was when he flattened Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce and Omar Narvaez (unanimous decision), he'd walk through Vetyeka.
However, since the unanimous-decision loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux and the birth of his son, Donaire hasn't looked the same.
Against Vic Darchinyan in Nov. 2013, in a rematch of a classic 2007 scrap, Donaire was getting all he could handle before he stopped the tough Armenian in the ninth round.
What's wrong? Maybe nothing. Perhaps Rigondeaux is just really that good. All signs point to that being true. El Chacal is 13-0 and made the tough Joseph Agbeko look like an amateur in their bout in Dec. 2013.
There's really no doubting Rigondeaux is one of the best in the business. But didn't we used to be sure Donaire was, too?
Maybe Darchinyan is just one of those awkward and tough guys who will always give Donaire a good fight.
That, too, isn't a preposterous statement. But perhaps the biggest reason Donaire isn't looking like a world beater anymore is because boxing is no longer the center of his world.
In this interview prior to the Rigondeaux fight, Donaire says that his soon-to-be-born son is all he thinks about. His demeanor when speaking about his upcoming bout with Rigondeaux is dismissive.
Anyone who finds fault in that is totally insane, but the truth of the matter is that athletes have to be selfish to be at their best. They have to place their preparation and practicing of their craft at the top of the mountain.
That's especially the case once they hit 30 years old and aren't blessed with the same physical gifts they had when they were in their 20s.
Donaire is now 31.
Is he still vested enough in his craft to be an elite fighter? The questions that have arose from this article aren't the only of their kind.
In an article by Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine, Boxing Scene's Jake Donovan said: "The Fil-Am boxer-puncher was one of the best in the lower weight classes for the past seven years, but I believe his time passed."
Donaire wants to impress and silence all the doubters. Per Dino Maragay of The Philippine Star, Donaire said this during a pre-fight press conference: "Winning is important. But there's nothing better than a knockout. I don't predict all my fights but I always want to get a knockout."
A KO or TKO win would be big for Donaire. Vetyeka has never been stopped. A win like that would send a message to other featherweights and the boxing community that Donaire's back and ready to perform on an elite level.
If he's not impressive—or loses—all of the flash may be gone.
Follow me. I'm passionate about boxing.